Characters are always welcome in my life book


Life is truly like a book. Some people fall into a stable happy plot early on in life, and while characters may come and go, the scenery and plot lines remain the same. Sure they have chapters of life—college, marriage, kids, etc, but it’s all the same volume, and it’s a wonderfully comfortable story. Then there is my book. I thought it was a one volume deal—awesome chapters and side stories—but one volume nonetheless. My life book just had a major plot twist. So major in fact that I think I’m not just starting a new chapter, but rather I’m penning a whole Australia volume. It’s exciting to have such an incredible twist of fate, but while I know the new volume is going to be great, I’m finding it really hard to write the last chapter in my present one.

I have gotten many questions recently from people asking me to fill in the blanks of this next adventure, and I respond to almost every one with the same nervous “I have no idea.” People typically smile and backtrack a bit reassuring me that “you’ll know soon” and “it will work out,” but inside I can’t help but share their feeling of “wish I knew.” I want to know all about my next step. Come on, just give me a peek at some of the main characters—or reassure me that there will be awesome main characters. But alas, part of the fun of living this life story is knowing that none of the pages are yet written.

In response to the plethora of questions about Oz, however, I’ve decided the best way to address them is to pen a blog post. So here goes.

  1. Yes, it is very cool, and I am indeed excited.
  2. Yep. I am perfectly aware that everything there could kill me.
  3. No I don’t think shrimp on the barbie is a thing.
  4. Sorry, I probably won’t come back with an Australian accent.
  5. Yes, as of the moment, I do intend to actually come back.
  6. Nope. I have no clue where I am going to live yet.
  7. Yes, I’d be crazy not to be nervous. So yes. Yes, I am nervous.
  8. I will be there approximately 4 years as that is how long a normal PhD program takes. No, you’ve heard wrong. Becoming a “Dr.” always takes longer than a year.
  9. Yes, their summer is our winter and you should obviously spend your winter break with me in Oz.
  10. No I’m not “gone yet.” Their semesters are quite different and their fall semester isn’t until the end of February. So that’s when I leave—February.
  11. Yes, I fully expect to step off the plane and have someone say “welcome to Australia” as they hand me a koala. Don’t crush my hopes and dreams.

The long and short of it is that I am incredibly excited and thankful for this opportunity. One of my biggest regrets of college (as I explained in my first Australia post ( was not studying abroad. Basketball shut that door for me, and almost four years later I’ve been given a window. I don’t know any details of my stay there yet—heck, I still have to APPLY to the school. Granted, the application is just a sidenote as I have a spot, but that process doesn’t begin until my boss heads off in three weeks.

I have no idea where I’ll live, aside from somewhere in Melbourne, and I likely won’t know until I get there. Luckily my boss has offered for me to stay at his house (the one he hasn’t picked out yet), when I first arrive so that I can find a home when I get there. I am a planner at heart however, so I’ve been maxing out google searches to find good areas and housing units. I had my latest apartment picked out and signed for 5 months before I needed to move, so you know not being able to do that with my Australian residence is killing me.

Every day is a different emotion with this adventure. There’s this overwhelming sense of nostalgia with my life that I can’t quite shake. I love where I am right now. It’s hard to imagine leaving it and finding something better. It’s hard to imagine my stateside life feeling like it’s on hold in my mind, when in reality life is situation normal for all my friends and family. I feel like when I leave, time here freezes, but really by the time I get back, four crucial years will have passed in the lives of everyone I know. This is the point at which I remember how thankful I am for technology making the world seem much smaller. At the same time though, I know I will lose friends in this move—not for lack of caring, just for lack of convenience. Long distance is hard and while at first there is a novelty to it, eventually that wears off and reality sinks in. I’m working on accepting that, and accepting the inevitable changes ahead of me. Some of the starring characters in my life book now will fade out, but they will have served their purpose, and that’s ok.

In the meantime, if we are out enjoying a beautiful North Carolina evening and you notice me being a little quieter, just give me a moment. I’m soaking in every bit of this last chapter of volume one before I set off to write my next one. And I mean it with all sincerity when I say I truly hope all the characters in volume one will be reoccurring in my future ones. As the USA TV network says “characters welcome.”




Be the placebo effect the world needs


Can a positive outlook truly make a difference? It’s something I’ve always been curious about. Can you really be happier by simply TRYING to be happier? Can you be more successful by BELIEVING you can be?

This past May I traveled to a fitness conference to mingle with professionals and see what the latest exercise research is, and let me tell you, it was fascinating. I went there to learn more about my specific field of research, nitric oxide and nitrate supplementation, but since the studies in that area were somewhat lacking, I ventured out to explore other areas. One of the best talks I went to was about the placebo effect, and that talk has truly reshaped how I view research, exercise and motivation.

So for those of you unfamiliar with the term, a placebo is something presented as a real treatment that is in reality a “fake.” A placebo effect is when someone is given a placebo but still has a response (positive or negative) to the fake treatment. The response can be the same or opposite of the real treatment.

The studies presented on this topic were just incredibly eye opening. One described a situation where patients were in a hospital and were going to be given pain medication. Both groups got the pain medication, but one had a doctor come in, present the drug, and explain how it should help, while the other group was given the drug without their knowledge via a slow drip controlled by a machine. So, both groups got the drug, but when the patients were asked to report their pain level over a period of a few hours, those that had the doctor injected drug saw a significant decrease in pain, while the people who unknowingly had the drug injected reported no decrease in pain. Wait, what??

If both groups got the drug—this pain controlling drug—why didn’t both groups experience a decrease in pain? This goes to show just how powerful the mind truly is, and really this situation is proving how little the drug actually does. If the drug was the cause of the decrease in pain, then BOTH groups should have reported less pain, and yet only the group that had the doctor reassurance saw a decrease. The positive reinforcement from a doctor decreased a person’s sense of pain, not the drug.

As far as medicine has come, our mind is far more powerful. And as powerful as our mind is, encouragement and positive reinforcement are perhaps even more influential. So how does this apply to the world outside of medicinal drugs? Well, what if all someone needs to make it through the next squat is your reassurance that they can? What if all they need to get past a tragedy are your words of understanding and sympathy? If that’s the case, your words just became crucial to someone else’s success. And conversely, your words could equally assist in someone’s failure.

Live life positive. Think about the cans and not the can’ts, and share them with those around you. Be that positive placebo effect for your friends and family. Even when you have nothing to offer but words, you can help reassure them and give them the strength and confidence they need for that positive life change. Words cost you nothing and yet the right ones can change everything.


****This post is not meant to suggest that drugs are ineffective or to spark debate on their use. In many instances, medicinal intervention is the best option. I’m just trying to suggest that they are not the ONLY option.